Is it just me, or has there been quite a lot of drama in the blogosphere lately? I know these things tend to go in cycles, and I’m daily reminded of reasons why I LOVE the book blogging community, but all the drama can get overwhelming. It can also be scary as a blogger–clearly, this can happen to anyone. ANYONE can choose to fight you over a review. As much as we like to do things to ward ourselves against it, sometimes these things happen to people who have done nothing to incite it, except apparently have their own opinion of a book. It’s frustrating, but it points to a bigger problem.
I typically try and stay away from controversial post like this, because while I think they’re totally fair game as a blogger, it’s just never been what my focus has been. I like making fun post about what TV characters would read if they read YA, or why you should take a chance on a classic. I hardly ever post my potentially controversial post, because it just hasn’t been worth it in the past to me. But this one is, because it’s something I care very deeply about.
Because after a point of contention, a reviewer might be accused of being a bit, well, mean. And sometimes, they’re even called a cyber-bully by either an author or a fan. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of authors who treat bloggers and reviewers with respect, but they can’t control their fans behavior. There are authors, though, however, who pull the bully card over reviews. Now, I have seen reviewers PERSONALLY attack authors. I have. I know it’s possible, and it does happen, however rare. That is different. What I am talking about today is when reviewers are called bullies just because they reviewed a book in a negative, perhaps “harsh” way. This isn’t about any incident in particular, but I feel like I have seen an increase in this lately, and it needs to be talked about. It can’t just be the elephant in the room.
Repeat after me: Equating Negative Reviews with Cyber-bullying is WRONG. And I don’t mean just in the factual sense. it is morally reprehensible. It is a BAD thing to do. Because what happens when you accuse someone of cyber-bullying when all they were doing was reviewing a product?
You dilute what cyber-bullying really is. This is not a matter of disagreeing with someone over your book. This is not a matter of you thinking a reviewer is mean or harsh. They very well be mean or harsh to your book, and they have every right to be. You may not agree with it. You have the right to disagree(but publicly fighting & disagreeing is not a good idea because they have every right to not like your book, the product that they spent time reading and may have even purchased). But when you point a finger towards a reviewer and rouse others with the cry of “Cyber-bully”, you take away from those who really are victims of online bullying.
A girl who commits to suicide because she was assaulted and photos of it were posted online. (source)
An 18-year-old boy who jumps off a bridge after his privacy of his sexual encounters was violated and posted online. (source)
A Junior high(Junior high!) student who commits suicide after PERSONAL cruel comments were left on her MySpace page. (source)
A Bad Review is NOT Cyber-bullying. Period.
See the difference between those cyber-bullying case and a negative, even SNARKY review? Because it’s there & it’s big. See the difference between an 18-year-old who has privacy violated by having his sexual encounters recorded without his consent and then having that spread around the internet and you putting your book out to the public and your book being disliked, maybe even hated?
You knew what you were doing when you released a book into the world. No one who has a book published thinks their book will be universally loved. It’s inevitable. A book is art, yes, but it is also a product. People may hate it. People may be “mean” about it. People may think your PRODUCT is trash, and they may even say it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read. We can debate the merit of reviews and such all day, but a review like that is not cyber-bullying. It’s just not, nor will it ever be.
You may wish people would be nicer towards your work. I get it. But at no point do those comments equal cyber-bullying. Pointing the finger at a reviewer and screaming “Bully!” when all they have done is reviewed your work, the work that YOU released to the public, either by yourself or through a traditional publisher, is detrimental to the online community. It distracts from what real cyber-bullying cases are. These reviews are not about you, they are about your work. Even if you take them personally, even if they make you emotional, they are not about you. They are not personal attacks. Every once in a while, personal attacks do occur, but on a more rarer basis than negative reviews do. Still unsure? You should check out this infographic from Oh Chrys! It does a fantastic job of showing the difference between a bad review and a bullying attack.
I care about cyber-bullying a lot because I care about bullying a lot. I’ve been there. I was the kid who went home from school every day crying. And I’ve also had my work criticized. Sometimes it was harsh and that made me cry too, but at no point were the two circumstances ever the same. Ever. So please, stop equating negative reviews with cyber-bullying. It’s shameful to those who have been victims of cyber-bullying, and it distracts everyone from what the review is about in the first place: the author’s work, not the author.